Story & Biography




The origin

Giostra dell’Orso it’s a competition of ancient origin which   sink its roots in the old  ” Berbers’ palio” . It was disputed in 1200 and were engaged the most important knights at the time and noblemen from all over Italy. The ancient Palio was so important and heartfelt in the city that could be  deleted only for serious grounds (wars,epidemics etc.).

A municipal document of 1514, attests that the race started from Via Lucchese  to S.Maria Cavaliera Cathedral ,close to the Town Hall. It was a straight level track  and  measured about  2 miles . After the building of  the Bastion in  Porta Lucchese, the Palio  was  played along Spianato Street, the actual  Corso. In  1788 the Palio was run on S.Francesco’s  meadow.

Over the years, the rules and the route have been changed but the formula hasn’t changed  until the outbreak of the First World War. In  1947 the Palio was played for the first time in the Cathedral Square and since then it was called ” Giostra dell’Orso” in honor of the heraldic animal (the bear)represented in the citizen (in Pistoia it’s called “ micco”).


                                                                                                                                                                       stemma di Pistoia

What is it?

 Giostra dell’Orso it’s an equestrian event  that is disputed between twelve  knights , 3 for every Quarter, which slam into each other ,two by two, for the Palio or cloth’s conquest. Pistoia’s Quarters are  4 (they represent the four access doors to the City). In olden times they had to protect Pistoia with their equestrian grunt or  footsoldiers; for this reason every Quarter is characterised by a Suburban banner. They are : – Cervo bianco, which is the  ancient Porta Lucensis’ Quarter , the actual Porta Lucchese;  Drago, the ancient Porta Caldatica or Gaiardatica’s Quarter , the actual  Porta Carratica or Porta Fiorentina; Grifone , the ancient  Porta San Andrea’s Quarter , today Porta al Borgo, and finally  Leon d’oro, the ancient  Porta Guidonis’ Quarter , the actual Porta San Marco.


stemma Cervo bianco                          stemma Drago



stemma Leon d’oro                               stemma Grifone

The Giostra dell‘ Orso’s race is composed of 18 gatherings ,which are drawn and laid down on the morning of 25 July, in which the knights have to break down a target shaped like a bear, hitting it with a lance.The score is assigned by this method: three points to the first one who  breaks down the bear, one point to the second one who breaks down the bear,zero points to  everyone who fails . The scores acquired  from the knights in the different shifts  are  added on the basis of the Quarter and, in the end, the Quarter with the most points wins the Giostra and gets the Palio.

The day of 25 July 

You start the morning with historical and religious Parade; the historical procession which faithfully represents the ancient and solemn Parade of S.Jacopo’s Eve,in which took part the most influential personalities in  Pistoia . It was called the ” Tapers Procession” .


                                                                                                                                                                                                                    immagini relative al corteo storico di pistoia

All parade  participants  wear period costumes marching across the center to stop before the Cathedral ,where  the Procession announces its arrival with drum rolls  and requests permission to enter with three trumpet blasts.

In the evening,it’s disputed the famous ”Giostra dell’Orso”.

Knight who  runs during the Giostra 

come assistere all’evento


 Giostra dell‘ Orso has become, over time, an expected annual date, which every year attracts thousands of citizens and tourists .

Delighted,they enjoy the show in the numbered stands, built for the occasion. You can access the stands only by ticket,which cost 22 euro, and which you can buy  at the  Tourist Information in the Cathedral Square since 15 July.


Piazza Duomo durante la cerimonia a Pistoia